Twelve hundred of the world's largest banks, including J.P. Morgan Chase, American Express, Wachovia, Bank of America and Citibank, are potential victims of the latest wave of the Bugbear virus, which first surfaced last fall.
The virus travels via e-mail and attacks Windows operating systems and was first noticed on September 30th and after it had already infected computers in dozens of countries. It is rated "high risk" for both home and corporate users.
The government is now warning financial institutions that a virus-like infection has targeted computers at roughly 1,200 banks worldwide, in an effort to steal corporate passwords. The FBI is looking into what some think is the first time an Internet attack has been launched that targets a single economic sector.
Apparently, virus experts were amazed to find the 1,200 web addresses inside the virus software code. The new virus is being called "BugBear.B," has hit tens of thousands of consumer computers across the Internet since last week. No one knows yet if any financial institutions have been considerably affected.
The virus arrives as a worm embedded in an e-mail attachment, but unlike other viruses, the attachment doesn't have to be opened to launch the virus. Just opening or previewing the e-mail is enough to set off the virus. Among the subject lines reported to date are: "Just a reminder," "News," "Membership Confirmation," "Market Update Report" and "Your Gift." The virus perpetuates by sending itself to e-mail addresses found on the recipients computer or attaching itself to messages already sent. It also is clever at disabling various firewalls and virus protection systems that are designed to keep this kind of bug from penetrating a system.
If the virus succeeds in infecting a computer, it can give hackers to delete or steal anything that is stored on a computer's hard drive.
Microsoft, McAfee and Symantec are all working to fix the worm, which some say has infected more than double the number of computers that were hit by the Klez worm.